This book is dedicated to all the people still searching for their place in the world; to
those who have found and cherish their sense of place; and to all the people here in
these mountains who have helped us find our place.
The Old Homeplace
Wit, Wisdom, and Remembrances
Gardens and Commercial Farms
Preserving and Cooking Food
Wild Plant Uses
Technology and Tools
ith any Fox re project, so many people contribute so much that it would be almost impossible to name
and thank all of them individually. We owe so much gratitude to students who, over the years, have gathered the
information for the books and made the program a success; to parents who often carry the students on the
interviews; and to current teachers Angie Cheek and Joyce Green and Principal Matt Arthur at Rabun County
High School, who provide a base of operations and unfailing support and guidance for the magazine program.
In particular, we owe a special thanks to the many people who helped us in the production of Fox re 11.
This book was edited entirely by former students who worked when they came home from college, when they
had time o of their regular jobs, or around their other jobs. Without Teresia Gravley Thomason, Amy York, and
Robbie Bailey, we could not have nished this book on schedule or with the diversity and perspective it managed
to achieve. Teresia, while on summer vacation from her job with Pioneer RESA, produced both the “Wild Plant
Uses” chapter and “Wit, Wisdom, and Remembrances,” as well as looking at the rest of our sections for grammar
and stylistic problems. Amy, who had just graduated from high school and was preparing to go to college,
completed the “Hunting Stories” and “Farm Animals” chapters. Robbie, the three-time veteran of Fox re book
production, compiled the “Fishing” and “The Old Homeplace” chapters and frequently told us what to expect
next in the process of compiling the book.
Our help did not just come from former students. Many friends and family members of both the Fox re 11
crew and the Fox re program also helped in the production of the book. Bill and Pat Gravley and Jane Thomason
and Warren Thomason answered questions on everything from recipes to chickens on a regular basis throughout
the summer. For a few weeks, we were at the house of J. C. Stubble eld and Bernice Taylor weekly, conducting
interviews for nearly every section of the book. There were days when we called Jimmie and Juanita Kilby
several times with questions to which they either had a cheerful answer or did their best to nd out for us.
Jimmy Hunter read and reread several sections, providing comments, insights, and corrections. Debbie Hunter,
Bessie Ramey, and Al Durham gave last-minute advice and help with the recipe section. Former Fox re students
Allison Adams and Teresa Thurmond Gentry helped with final edits.
Various community members also provided needed support. Mildred Donaldson and Susie Smith graciously
provided needed information for our “Gardens and Commercial Farms” chapter. Doug Adams, Kyle Burrell, and
Perry Thompson provided needed advice and knowledge regarding the “Fishing” chapter. Marie Mellinger and
Billy Joe Stiles gave invaluable assistance with wild plant names and uses. George and Howard Prater kindly
ll in missing information about beekeeping and then sent us away with a few bottles of delicious
honey as gifts. Mary Elizabeth Law helped with our research of historical information.
The Fox re sta , as always, helped when needed. Robert Murray, who could not come near the Fox re 11
crew without having several questions thrown at him, was always willing to assist. Lila Anna Hiers advertised the
coming publication and took numerous pictures for us. Mary Lou Rich did a little of everything, from reading to
ordering more supplies, to providing cheerful encouragement and moral support. Michael Buchholz acted as go-
between with the Doubleday editors, kept us on task, and helped broaden our perception of what this book could
be. Ann Moore read, reread, and read again every page of the book, never complaining, and often encouraging us
with everything from words to kind notes left with our sections after she had nished reading them yet again.
Bobby Starnes agreed the book should be done and allowed Kaye the time to work on it.
And nally, a heartfelt thanks to the members of our community who welcomed us into their homes and
gave freely of their time, their knowledge, and themselves, and, most important, gave us love, friendship, and a
sense of belonging. They are the everyday heroes upon which this book and all the others are based. We are
indebted to them for raising us right; for supporting us; for showing us that no matter what changes our beloved
mountains see, the values and ideas that make us Appalachian—the ones that tell us to be self-su cient, yet
remind us that ultimately we belong to our community and our Creator—will not change. Thank you.
ong before my father passed away in 1995 at the age of ninety, he used to boast that he had seen it all—
from the stone age to the atomic age—from right there in our tall-grass prairie community on the southern plains
where he was born, raised, and planned to meet his maker “walking out across the pasture.” While his story may
be unique, it is not out of character for many of America’s elderly whose lives spanned most of the twentieth
century. Born in Indian Territory (in Geronimo, no less) and raised among the Comanches, he survived boyhood
by farming and hunting the hillsides and creek bottoms on the homeplace. Later he served as Indian agent for the
government and, at one time or another after that, was the teacher in a one-room schoolhouse, a threshing crew
boss, an oil eld roughneck, a sharecropper, a cowboy, and a bulldozer driver. While he was the gentle family
patriarch and “strongest man in the county” to his sons, he was “Uncle Cecil” to my buddies and cousins who
would sit gaped-eyed while he enthralled them for hours with his tall tales of yesteryear. He taught us, among
other things, to make our own bows and arrows out of the osage orange tree “just like the war chief Great
Monsikay” taught him, how to predict exactly when a pregnant sow would have piglets, and how to hypnotize a
chicken. What neater information could a twelve-year-old boy possibly possess in 1954! This was, of course,
before we went forth to the big world and learned to hide our country ways and disguise our Okie accents so we,
too, could sound like the man on the six o’clock news.
While rummaging through my father’s possessions after the funeral, I discovered something that brought
back a ood of memories. There among his few books—Bible, various Year Books of Agriculture, and a surveyor’s
handbook—was a water-stained, tattered, and duct-taped copy of the original 1972 Fox re book. My brother
George and his wife, Lynn, had given it to my dad for Christmas that year. As I
ipped through the worn,
consumed pages with carefully penciled-in personal observation notes in a distinguished handwriting of an earlier
generation, I realized that he must have read this Christmas gift at least a hundred times. I remember coming
home from Europe that winter to a country and its families torn apart by Vietnam and racial strife. We gathered
around the re on Christmas Eve to admire this most unusual gift—and how a high school English class way
down in a faraway place called Rabun Gap, Georgia, decided to go out and interview the old people about their
traditions as a project in cultural journalism. I now realize that this positive bridging of young and old by the
Fox re kids could not have been better timed for a troubled America. For my father and his generation, the
simple fact that their knowledge was appreciated and recorded in black and white was a veri cation of a hard life
well lived. For my part, I momentarily forgot about the generation gap and felt very grateful in being reminded
that there was no need to feel shame in this family and rural place. It was one of the happiest Christmases of my
Exactly a quarter century later I took a personal pilgrimage to the little log cabin on the mountain above
Mountain City, Georgia, where the very simple but beautiful and e ective Fox re philosophy of education
through practice had been crafted and nurtured. Here, within hand-hewn heart pine walls, successive Foxfire
Magazine classes, in pursuing what interested them in the local community, had created perhaps the world’s
richest archives of regional folk history Engul ng me in the cabin were the results of more than three decades of
premier oral history research—wall-to-wall catalogs and les containing over two thousand taped and transcribed
interviews, twenty thousand black-and-white photos and slides, and hundreds of videos. Here was a scholars’
paradise and a national treasure in need of immediate attention. I learned from Dr. Bobby Ann Starnes, the
president of The Fox re Fund, and Michael Buchholz, the resource director, and other dedicated sta members
that for several years the archives had su ered benign neglect when the organization was going through changes
in leadership. Dust, silver sh, dampness, and time were beginning to take their toll. I felt honored when the
Fox re folk asked me and Dr. Virginia Nazarea, my colleague in anthropology at the University of Georgia, to
help them in their ongoing efforts to preserve the materials.
rst product of this revitalization e ort is this wonderful new volume on Appalachian farm life
prepared by present and past Fox re students. The Fox re archives, through voices of local people, document
one of the greatest transformations of the American landscape since our country was founded: the decline of the
American farm. The o cial statistics are brutally honest: between the 1960s when the Fox re Approach was
being conceived and today, the number of farm families has declined by over 50 percent. During this same period,
the farm population dropped from 15 million to around 4 million. Accompanying this decline has been the
physical abandonment of the countryside and the industrialization of farming. The culture has disappeared from
agriculture. Most farmers today do not even grow their own food, preferring instead to purchase it at the
supermarket. Simultaneously, the remaining farms are increasingly assaulted by an encroaching suburbia that is
often spiritually and aesthetically bland. Much of rural America has become a “subdivided” landscape where
every place is no place. Strip Mall, Georgia, looks the same as Strip Mall, Anywhere, USA. As we destroy the
cultures of our rural past, to quote Kentucky author-poet Wendell Berry, “we did not know what we were doing
because we did not know what we were undoing.” And rural futurist Wes Jackson warns, “The loss of cultural
information due to the depopulation of our rural areas is far greater than all the information accumulated by
science and technology in the same period.”
As we enter the twenty- rst century, however, men and women much like my dad are still out there waiting
to tell their stories of change and continuity. While the Southern Appalachian region has faced much the same
fate as other rural areas, the ruggedness of terrain and the doggedness of the people have allowed a traditional
world to linger on long after its disappearance in the atter parts of the country. By tapping into these survivals,
Fox re 11 o ers a countervailing perspective to the assumed inevitable decline of regional character and rural
traditions. Unlike those of us who waited too long to listen to the turn-of-the last-century generation, the students
of Fox re have shown us how a sense of place still lives on in historically hardscrabble communities with names
like Licklog, Turkey Cove, and Warwoman Creek. The homogenizing march of the interstate highways, fast food
and motel chains, tourism, and land speculation may have altered the main thoroughfares over the mountains,
but growth and “progress” have not stomped out either the memories or the desire to maintain the old mountain
The pages of this book portray farm families who created and re ned the practices associated with tilling the
soil, tending the seed, harvesting the produce, and nally preparing it for consumption or storage for the next
planting. In this system, tied closely to the changing seasons, an intimate and sacred connection prevailed between
the people and the earth and between the society and the landscape. Children learned directly from their parents
by observing and participating. A farm child never had to explain or hide what his father or mother did for a
living. However poor the economy, the locally evolved foodways and survival tactics were part and parcel of a
rich human culture that gave a special meaning to life.
I can hear some “growth without limits” proponents arguing “so what?” If the family farming way of life has
virtually disappeared, then what value is bygone knowledge today? After all, aren’t technology, information, and
global markets supposed to work for a better future? And in this future, what use are bean stringings, pea
thrashings, corn shuckings, and ta y pulls? I, for one, leap to disagree with this quick deterministic dismissal of
the past. What was is just as good as what is. While speci c knowledge, technology, or activity may sometimes
seem like folkloric anachronisms acted out only in heritage fairs, the underlying principles of rural living can still
serve as a moral and ethical compass in our individualistic, hypermodern world. Our citizenry has grown used to
a society where children don’t have any idea where their food comes from other than the supermarket and old
folks die in heat waves because no one checks on them anymore. We are seeing a deterioration of our
communities, our ecologies, and our physical and mental health. If an appreciation of the past helps us move
forward and make better choices, then why not use it?
The student editors, writers, and compilers of Fox re 11—Kaye Collins, Lacy Hunter, Amy York, Robbie
Bailey, and Teresia Thomason—once gathered with me in the archival log cabin to educate me on what they
learned from working on this volume about farm life. Although none of the students had ever lived on a farm,
much less milked a cow by hand, they all said the exercise provided a powerful vehicle to re ect on the lives of
the earlier generations who had sacri ced so much. Unanimously, they felt the lessons for living provided by the
elders could guide us in the future. First, they were impressed by the brave self-su ciency of their parents and
grandparents who had no guaranteed nine-to- ve job and no social security but survived nonetheless with pride
and joy. Second, the simpler lifestyle of the old mountain way could teach us a few things about bringing balance
back to our rush-about modern lifestyles. Third, the students yearned for a more personal world where neighbors
supported each other, where resources were shared, and oral communication (talking, singing, storytelling,
preaching) was a valued art form. Finally, they learned that the land from which they sprang helped pay for the
prosperity of America and the education of its youth. They know that it is time now to repay the land through
revival of an old-fashioned stewardship and reverence drawn from the inspiration of bygone generations of
farmers. Sure, we cannot go back to an earlier life—even if we wanted to—but as we search for ways to cure our
modern social ills, heal our land’s wounds, and restore a balance between ourselves and our lost roots, there is
much of value in these pages.
The rst person I ever met at Fox re was its conservator, Mr. Robert Murray, who can best be described as a
modern-day Will Rogers. He kept me and my graduate students spellbound and in stitches as he gave us a
knowledge-rich folk tour of the wild useful plants around the center’s grounds. As we strolled back down a
winding path to our car, he told me that when the Fox re project started in the mid-1960s, the Appalachian hill
people were experiencing a “period of shame” in which they believed their hand-me-down knowledge, hard won
through everyday experience, had little value compared to the higher-status knowledge found in America’s cities
atlands. They thought that to be accepted they had to shed their “hillbilly” ways and adopt those of
outsiders. Learning had to come from textbooks or other materials designed and produced by formally educated
people who lived far from Rabun Gap. Highland culture had to be replaced by a national culture promoted by the
mass media. Today, however, all over the United States and cultures beyond our borders where the Fox re
philosophy of experiential hands-on learning has taken root, students and teachers know better. As the world
globalizes and regional identities disappear, a counterreaction emerges in villages, towns, and cities where people
are actively seeking their roots—and listening to the aging guardians of indigenous knowledge—for inspiration in
capturing lasting values of a community-based culture. This Fox re volume, published on the dawn of a new
millennium, not only continues the grand American tradition of the ten Fox re books before but comes at a time
when we as a people need more than ever such
ne examples of how young and old can realistically anchor
themselves in their communities. The timing of this Fox re book is no less critical for our country than the
original Foxfire book of 1972.
—Robert E. Rhoades
Professor of Anthropology
University of Georgia
Being involved in The Foxfire Magazine class bene ts everyone in one way or another. Of course, the obvious
bene ts are practical ones: computer skills, business skills, and pro ciency in communication. These skills,
however, seem unimportant when I think about what I really learned in my years spent working for Fox re. I
started out new to the program and painfully shy. I could not imagine how I would ever survive the
interview. I was quite sure, in fact, that the man I was interviewing was going to hate me. But I did survive (and
he did not hate me). After a summer of interviewing people, arguing with other senior editors, and seeing articles
I had written published in the magazine, I gained confidence that has impacted every part of my life.
Another aspect of the Fox re experience, one that really did not become clear to me until I began working on
this book, was the insight gained from working with Fox re students of other generations. Kaye Carver Collins,
who has been my adviser, mentor, and friend over the past four years, was a Fox re student of the 1970s. When
we rst began putting the book together, I ran across a place in a transcript where a lady had made a comment
concerning what she thought about men wearing mustaches. I laughed and turned around to tell Kaye, who
surprised me by quoting the lady word for word. She had been on the interview and described it for me, talking
about how she had laughed when this tiny, eighty-year-old lady had talked about men with mustaches.
Experiences like that helped me to see all the interviewees, even the ones whom I had never met, as people, and
not merely names. Furthermore, they helped me relate to Kaye as a former student just like me.
Working with former students from three di erent decades was an experience in itself. Of course, the
technical aspects of producing a book have changed greatly: Kaye remembers using typewriters, Robbie and
Teresia remember getting the rst computers, and Amy and I are computer-dependent. However, some aspects of
the Fox re books have not changed and hopefully never will. Each of us has at least one or two people who stand
out in our minds as having changed our perspectives.
The people I have been able to meet and interview are a large part of what has made my Fox re experience
so special. When I think about Mr. and Mrs. Hoyt Tench, the rst people I interviewed, I still feel gratitude that
borders on hero worship for them. I went to their house, terri ed I would not be a good interviewer and that
they wouldn’t like me, and they took me in, patted my back, and talked to me as if they’d known me for years.
Their kindness and warmth not only made me more comfortable as I was interviewing them but a ected me later
as I went on more interviews. I did not get nervous after that rst experience—in fact, going on the interviews
actually became my favorite part of the production of the magazine.
Mr. and Mrs. Tench are far from being my only memorable interviewees. As a seventeen-year-old high school
student, I had the privilege of meeting and photographing the governor of Georgia, Zell Miller, when one of my
friends interviewed him. What an inspiration to see a man who came from “just across the mountain” sitting in
the governor’s chair.
Perhaps the most in uential interview I had, though, was with Mrs. Annie Chastain, my last interview as a
high school student. Mrs. Chastain, whom you will meet later, took me under her wing, prayed for me, and
showed me the kind of neighborly love you will read about throughout this book. Recently, she, her husband, and
I were sitting on their front porch talking. (He was laughing and threatening to make me help him rob the bees.)
When one of her cousins dropped by, Mrs. Chastain introduced me as her friend. I have never had a greater honor
than to be called the friend of this wonderful woman.
This book and the others in this series are full of people like Mr. and Mrs. Tench and Mrs. Chastain. They
have wisdom and experience, always bene cial, but they give us so much more. Perhaps the greatest gift they
impart to us is love—love for family, friends, neighbors, and strangers; love learned from good parents, strict
rearings, years of hard work, and years of sharing with those in need; love that their faith in God tells them they
would be wrong not to share. We can learn so much from them because they have lived through hard times; seen
enormous changes, both technological and social; and they have survived and are happy. They will tell you, in
spite of whatever circumstances they may have lived through or overcome, that they have had a good life. We
have more to learn from them than a lifetime could teach.
I consider myself a very fortunate person for several reasons. Two of these are that I have had the privilege of
living in Rabun County Georgia, all my life, and I have had the opportunity to be involved with Fox re, in
numerous capacities, for almost thirty years.
I’m proud of the fact that I am a lifelong resident of this community; I’m proud to come from a long line of
Rabun Countians who survived adversities, cherished family, praised their Creator, and found contentment with
their lives. Although I own a home here, home is much more than a house—it is this place and these people. I
am not a landowner, for the land owns me. It is a part of who I am and what I hope to become. (All locations in
Foxfire 11, unless noted otherwise, are in northeastern Georgia.)
I rmly believe that part of that strong sense of belonging comes from having been involved with Fox re, in
one way or another, since 1969. First, by being the kid who watched teenagers interview my parents, and later, as
a Fox re student; then as a Fox re volunteer on their Community Board; and nally as a member of the Fox re
sta . One of the true pleasures of my job has been working with The Fox re Magazine senior editors during the
summer, and with them and their teachers, Angie Cheek and Joyce Green, during the school year. Together, the
teachers and I see those students start to make connections with their community. As they explore and research
their articles, they are also discovering more about themselves and how they fit in this community.
I hope that they, like I, get a tremendous sense of self-satisfaction knowing who they are and where they
come from. I believe Fox re plays a major role in that. Fox re helped me see the elders of my community as
friends and mentors—not as old people. The knowledge and friendship I acquired from them helped me develop
my self-image and my appreciation of individualism.
The rst interview I ever went on was with Aunt Arie Carpenter. She lived in a dilapidated log cabin, carried
water from a well, walked wherever she needed to go, and had a heart full of love to share with everyone she met.
She had no money, no car, no television, wasn’t famous—but she had the gift of making a sixteen-year-old feel
special, cared about, and valued. And she wasn’t the only one. Minyard and Lessie Conner, Kenny Runion, Lawton
Brooks, Clara Mae Ramey, Margaret and Max Woody, and many, many others, have all helped me, with their
friendship, love, and patience, to develop my sense of belonging here. To me, there is no greater gift we can give
ourselves and others.
My father died fourteen years ago, but I share him with my eight-year-old son, Alex, through Fox re
magazines, books, photos, and videos. As I show Alex the photos and read him the stories, I hope I will be able to
give my son a sense of place and help him value his heritage. Eventually I hope he will come to recognize and
love his connection to these people and this place.
When the opportunity arose to write this book, and the suggestion was made that I and another former
student would coedit it, I immediately wanted Lacy Hunter as my coeditor. I knew that with her English, writing,
and organizational skills, she would be a real asset to the production of Fox re 11. Lacy and I have worked
together for the last four years. She came to Fox re as a senior editor of The Fox re Magazine in the summer of
1994. She didn’t know the rst thing about magazine production, but with the help of the more experienced
senior editors, by the end of the summer, Lacy knew it all—how to operate the computer, use Pagemaker, take
photographs, develop negatives, conduct an interview, and edit it. She worked with me for the next two
summers, training new senior editors. This past year, she organized our archives for us. When she rst came to
work for us, she was extremely shy and wouldn’t dare share an opinion; and while she excelled at many things,
she was still searching for her place in the world.
Lacy and I have both come a long way from our days as Fox re students. I think in one way this book is
representative of our search for who we are. As you read the stories in this book, you will become acquainted
with many of the people we have met throughout the years. Our hope is that each of you will gain some sense of
connection from their stories. In a way, these people personify Fox re. They worked together to better their
lives. They shared what they had with others. They tried to
nd beauty in the simple things. They took the
knowledge that had been given to them and improved it to fit their circumstances.
I also believe the work we have done on this book depicts what Fox re stands for. First, it is the only book in
this series coedited and written entirely by former Foxfire Magazine students. I think that is profound—that the
ones who have learned over the years are now the experts. It is part of what the Fox re teaching approach is all
about; the learners naturally progress until they are skilled enough to begin teaching others.
It represents collaboration, which is also part of the teaching approach. One of my major concerns as we
began working was that when a problem came up, Lacy might defer to my opinion because I have been her
supervisor for so many summers. But I soon learned that along with her magazine production skills, Lacy had
acquired many other skills in the Fox re classroom. She wasn’t afraid to speak her mind, wasn’t in uenced by
my point of view, and often had much more creative contributions than 1.1 think we make a good team. We
collaborate well together. We each have our strengths and weaknesses when it comes to producing a good article,
but we work together to make it the best it can be.
It represents our commonality. Even though I’m a Fox re student of the 1970s, Teresia Thomason and
Robbie Bailey are students of the 1980s, and Lacy and Amy York are of the 1990s, I believe we share many
common bonds. We care passionately about the people we interview; we know more about ourselves from having
been in Foxfire; and we feel that, in some way, Foxfire will always be a part of us and us a part of it.
It represents our shared wisdoms. Just like the people featured in this volume, we each had knowledge to
share with the others. We each drew on our own experiences in Fox re to make this the best book we could
And, nally, it represents the knowledge, skills, and wisdom of the people here and their willingness to share
all that with teenagers toting microphones, tape recorders, and cameras. Out of that sharing develops ideas that
those teenagers will carry into adulthood, and parenthood, and the cycle goes on and on …
—Kaye Carver Collins
THE OLD HOMEPLACE
PLATE 1 A view of J. C. Stubblefield’s homeplace
When I started this chapter, it was called “Farm Buildings.” After reading the
various articles, people kept referring to the “old homeplace.” With the help of Kaye
Collins, I decided to change the name of the chapter because although the buildings
themselves are important, the very essence of the “homeplace” is what ties this chapter
together. When people talk about the homeplace, they’re not just referring to the house
or the farm buildings. They’re referring to a piece of land—their land—that they’ve
lived on and farmed, and hope to pass on to a new generation of the family to give it
the same care that they and their ancestors have. It is a place where you spend
numerous hours wondering if there is another place in the world that is as beautiful and
majestic as it is. It is something you can call your own and be proud of. It is where you
are from and where you always belong. In The American Farm, David Brown explains:
Home place. Sit a spell on the tailgate of a farmer’s pickup. Tailgates were made for conversation. Soon enough,
every farmer mentions “the home place.” He’ll give the words a slightly reverent tone, emphasizing them with a
gesture. Your eyes follow his hand to a small collection of buildings at the end of a country lane where a red
gambrel barn sits near a house dressed in white. You’ll be forgiven for thinking the old-fashioned house is his
home place. The farmer, however, means more than just a clutch of buildings. To him, the home place isn’t
boards held together by nails. It’s the land, and not any land, mind you, but his family land. Only those
particular acres—handed down through the generations—are the home place.
My grandmother grew up on the old Highlands Road at the Carver homeplace. The
old house fell due to decay and eventually burned to the ground. Of course, the piece of
land, covered in ivy and weeds, is still there, but there are no structures on the place. To
an observer, it is simply an unkept piece of land, but to my grandmother, it is a place
that will always be home to her, whether she lives there or not.
My grandfather was born in Carroll County, Georgia, on a farm. He left that area
and moved to Rabun County when he and my grandmother married. He worked in
various places, mostly in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, and Aiken, South Carolina, but they
returned to Rabun County and bought a place. He had an original homeplace, but when
they bought their house, they attained a new homeplace. They will always have fond
memories and stories of that little piece of land they called home. That’s what happens
to many people today. My homeplace will always be in Mountain City, where my
grandmother and grandfather lived, but I will start my homeplace for my family
somewhere else. In the case of my grandfather, he would always tell you that he was
from Carroll County but that Rabun County was his home.
Along with the appreciation of home comes a sense of responsibility, of hard work,
dedication, and self-su ciency. Self-su ciency is the ability to support or maintain
oneself without aid or cooperation from others. In the Appalachian Mountains, farming
is, and has always been, a means of self-su ciency. When one has a farm, it has to be
carefully and diligently worked and harvested to ensure the proper growth and use of
the crops. Farmers couldn’t sleep in or take the day o . They had to get up every day
and milk the cows, clean out the barn, feed the animals, mend a fence, plant or harvest
crops, and cut hay. This just didn’t happen every Tuesday or once a month; it happened
every day of their lives, and if they didn’t do it, life was at stake—an animal’s, someone
else’s, or their own. In the past, there wasn’t much money for people to go to the store
and buy food. The only store available was a small country store, but many families
were living in remote areas and sometimes couldn’t get to it. That is why farming was a
way of life.
The farm buildings were just as important as the soil the crops came up from. Not all
homesteads were alike, but almost all included a chicken house, barn, smokehouse,
springhouse, root cellar, and in some cases, a hog scalder and sorghum mill. Try to
imagine the beautiful, rustic buildings that dotted the land as Sallie Beaty talks about
the farm she grew up on in the Warwoman community.
“The old house we used to live in is still standing down at [her brother] Nathan’s
place. The wind blew it o its foundation. The smokehouse was just at the edge of the
yard, and in it, we kept our meat and, I believe, our canned stu . The crib was about
seventy- ve yards from the house, and in it was the corn that we used for meal and to
feed [the cows and horses] with, and then it had a shed to it that we kept the wagon
under. Back then, we didn’t have no tractors. The crib would be left opened at the top so
we could throw our corn in it. Our chicken house was up to the left of the house,
between the barn and the crib, and the chickens stayed there. Back then, we’d turn them
out [during the day], but they laid [eggs and slept] in this chicken house. [About]
twenty- ve feet from it was the barn where the livestock stayed. It was the biggest
building on the farm. Mostly, at night, we’d fasten the livestock all up. We milked in the
[barn] stalls back then. It had a loft to it where we kept the hay and the fodder [leaves
of the cornstalk] and tops [upper part of the stalk] and stu like that. I believe all of
them had tin roofs, except the old house, which had boards made out of oak. All of the
buildings were made of rough-cut lumber. Most all of it was cut o the farm. Daddy had
somebody to move in down there with a sawmill, and they sawed it there on the place.
In fact, they sawed what Nathan’s house is built out of today.”
These buildings served as a living area for the family and their animals, and for food
storage and food preparation. Barns were used to hold livestock and store hay and corn.
Smokehouses were used for storing and preserving meat. Springhouses and root cellars
were used for the refrigeration of food, with water from springs or creeks for the
springhouse and the natural temperature of the ground for root cellars. On some farms,
the hog scalder and the sorghum mill were used for food preparation.
Additional information can be found in previous Fox re books. For example, barn
raisings can be found in Fox re 2, springhouses in Fox re 4 and Fox re 9, and
smokehouses in Foxfire 1, Foxfire 2, and Foxfire 9.
The chicken house was not a speci c size, and the location of it really didn’t matter
in reference to the house. Most of the time, though, the chicken house was built close to
the house so it was easy to gather the eggs. These houses were not the industrial-sized
chicken houses that most people are familiar with today. Their size really depended on
how many chickens you owned and the amount of material you had to build it. Usually,
it wasn’t very fancy, just a building constructed out of rough lumber because in those
days most of the lumber was cut rough. The chickens stayed in the chicken house at
night and laid the eggs, and during the day they roamed around the pasture or yard.
PLATE 2 Nathan Bleckley’s chicken house
Sallie Beaty recalled, “Our chicken house was made out of rough lumber or slabs of
wood. It was square-shaped, about twelve by twelve [feet], with a roof and a door. [We
kept our chickens here] when we didn’t let them roam outside. We fed them corn
The springhouse was used to keep foods cold and preserved and was usually built
over or near a spring. Cold water ran through the spring-house and kept the food cold.
Most were constructed of wood, but many used rock because it was believed that the
rock absorbed the natural coolness of the water. Wooden ones were quicker to build, but
didn’t last as long as the rock buildings did. The decision to use wood or rock was based
on the ability to obtain the material and the amount of time available to construct it.
(See Foxfire 4, pages 347–61, for more information on springhouses.)
PLATE 3 Rock springhouse at Hambidge Center for Creative Arts and Sciences, Inc.
Oza Kilby shared, “We didn’t have refrigerators or freezers. We had a spring and
what we called a springhouse. We had water that would run into a trough. We built the
little springhouse over that trough. That is where my mama stored her milk and butter.
It was convenient, and the milk would stay cold. She would put her butter in containers,
in a bucket or something, where the water wouldn’t get in it.”
PLATE 4 Wooden springhouse from Aunt Arie Carpenter’s homeplace
Others like J. C. Stubble eld and Bernice Taylor didn’t have the actual structure—the
spring was their springhouse. J. C. told us, “We didn’t have a springhouse. There was
just a branch. The temperature of that water was cold.”
His sister Bernice added, “We had a concrete trough made in that little branch. There
was a hole in each end for the water to run in and out of. It stayed going all the time.”
THE ROOT CELLAR
The root cellar, or food storage cellar, was constructed of logs. It was called a root
cellar because people stored crops such as potatoes and turnips in it. (The word “cellar”
is derived from the Latin word cella, which means storeroom.)
The building shown in the photo is aboveground, but other root cellars were
underground. The roof of most root cellars is aboveground, but covered with sod and
dirt, and the rest of the structure is below the ground. This kept foods cool in the
summer and above freezing in the winter. The underground cellars usually maintained a
temperature of fifty degrees in the summer and about thirty-eight degrees in the winter.
PLATE 5 The root cellar located at the Foxfire Center
J. C. Stubble eld described the root cellar that he still uses today. “[We had a root
cellar] down in the basement of the house. Well, it’s just a hole. Dirt oor and all. It’s
been dug out from under the house. [We put] canned stu , sweet potatoes, Irish
potatoes, onions, pumpkins, and acorn squash [in it]—whatever we had that had to be
took care of during the wintertime—to keep it from freezing. I don’t know [what the
temperature was;] it was cool, though. [The fairly constant temperature] was created
because of where it was, in the ground, and the house over the top of it and all, and not
opening the door [to the outside] much.”
A smokehouse was used for preserving meat and usually, like the other buildings,
was constructed of rough lumber. The oors were dirt and served to keep the air inside
the smokehouse cool. Usually, there was a roof on the building and it was kept tightly
enclosed to keep out insects and animals. (See Fox re 3, pages 354–60, on the
construction of a smokehouse.)
Sallie Beaty told us, “Our smokehouse had a dirt oor—no ceiling, [just a roof]. It
was made of rough-cut lumber and was about fourteen-by-six-teen feet. We hung the
meat up in that smokehouse. Back then it was cold. On one side, [we had shelves]. We
had a space and a rod across it [on the other side] that they hung the beef on and the
same way with pork. [We’d hang it on this rod] until it drained some.”
PLATE 6 The Foxfire Center smokehouse
The animal was slaughtered and then carried to the smokehouse as soon as possible.
Meat was always taken in the twenty-four hours after the animal was killed, to avoid
spoilage. The best time to take the meat was while it was still warm. The most common
meats cured were hams, shoulders, and middlin’ meat (the side, between the shoulder
and back, down the spine).
Meat was cured by mountain families in several ways. It might be thoroughly salted
and then set up on waist-high shelves or down in boxes or barrels to “take the salt.”
Most people preferred the shelf system, as it allowed the meat to get the necessary
ventilation easily. Meanwhile, the winter weather provided natural refrigeration while
the meat was going through the curing process. When the weather began to get warm,
the second phase of the operation began. The meat was taken out of the salt mix,
washed, and then treated. (Cover the meat with a mixture of pepper and borax.)
Many people, however, preferred smoking the meat. Holes were poked in the
middlin’ meat, hams, and shoulders, white oak splits were run through the holes, and the
meat was hung from the joists of the smokehouse. Then a re was built inside the
smokehouse. If it had a dirt oor, the re could be built right on the ground. Otherwise,
a washpot was set in the middle of the room and a re built in that. The fuel for the re
was small green chips of hickory or oak, pieces of hickory bark, or even corncobs.
Smoke from the re was kept billowing for two to six days or until the meat took on the
brown crust that was desired both for its avor and for its ability to keep ies and other
insects out of the meat.
There was no speci c size for smokehouses. They were tailor-made to a family’s
needs. Sometimes they stood alone among a complex of outbuildings, but more often
they were part of another building that had several uses.
Some smokehouses were relatively open, while others were sealed and tightly closed,
to keep insects out. To keep ies out, aluminum screen wire was tacked to the inside of
the logs and to the underside of the ceiling between the rafters. The salt would
eventually eat holes in the wire, but it was easy enough to replace when that happened.
To keep out rats, a trench could be dug six inches into the ground under the bottom logs,
and cement poured in it to make a solid barrier that rats couldn’t get through and
wouldn’t tunnel under. The door and walls would keep out dogs and other animals.
“We had a smokehouse out in the [backyard],” Amanda Turpin said. “The oor was
the ground, just dirt. It would be so cool. We had a big wooden tub, and we would draw
water to pour in that tub and set our milk and butter in it. It kept it so cool we didn’t
have to draw fresh water but about twice a day—in the morning and in the afternoon.
[That well water] was just like ice water.”
J. C. Stubble eld recalled, “We built that for a smokehouse way back then. When we
was killing hogs, we put our meat up there in the wintertime. It’s made out of oak
lumber. It’s got a tin roof. I believe it was a seven by eight [feet]. It’s setting on big
rocks. Back then you didn’t know what a block was. It’s just a junk house now. It’s at
least forty years old, and it may be older. I built it myself.”
PLATE 7 J. C. Stubblefield’s smokehouse, which was built in the 1950s
The barn stored corn and hay, usually in the loft, and housed animals, such as cows,
horses, and mules. Built only a short distance from the house, the barn was usually the
biggest building on the homestead, sometimes even bigger than the house itself. The loft
was accessible by a ladder through a hole in the middle of the loft. The barn was
covered with board shingles, and it was planked on the inside to close it in.
J. C. Stubble eld explained his barn in the Wolf Creek community. “The barn is a log
building, the bottom is. The top is lumber covered with metal roo ng. I helped build it—
me, my daddy, and somebody else built it in 1939. It is thirty by fifty [feet], I believe.
PLATE 8 The barn at J. C. Stubblefield’s
The bottom part is where we kept the cattle, and the top part is where we kept the
hay. You call it two stories. Go right straight up there through the hole to the loft. It’s
got a ladder. The outside door is where you haul your hay and throw it in the barn. You
can throw it right from [the ground] because I built the ground up above the barn where
you could back up level to it [in a truck or wagon].”
When people in a community were building a barn, all the families would gather at
that homestead and have a barn raising. It was a time of fellowship and a time for
others to pitch in and help out. It also showed the common bond that these people had
with each other. One of Fox re’s most memorable times was when Millard Buchanan
raised a barn at the Fox re land. It was the rst and only barn on the property. The
following account of the actual barn raising and the historical background of the Ingram
mule barn is given by Steve Smith, a former student.
Under the leadership of Millard Buchanan, the rst barn was added to the
reconstruction project on the Fox re land. The barn was found abandoned in an
adjacent county, bought from its owner, dismantled, and moved in on Millard’s logging
truck, “Big Red.”
Putting the barn back up took approximately two weeks. It looked like one of the
old-style barn raisings to people who dropped by to watch the Fox re kids, Millard, and
his crew of community men working hard to t it back together on its new site. It was
amazing to watch Millard cut and notch new replacement logs for ones that were rotted
and sort through the piles of original logs for the good ones that could be used again.
And because he worked in the woods and with logs all his life, he knew hundreds of
shortcuts and ways to make the job go faster and easier. When the gnats got too bad in
the hot sun, for example, he built a small re with green wood and leaves. The smoke
almost choked everyone sometimes, but at least the gnats left them alone.
Now that the barn is nished, it (along with the other buildings that are being moved
in and reconstructed) will be lled with all of the tools and materials that have been
collected by Foxfire.
THE INGRAM MULE BARN
The Ingram mule barn was originally built by Nathaniel Ingram between the late
1800s and early 1900s, near Warne, North Carolina. The barn was used for housing
animals and animal feed. Holes were drilled in some of the walls The original barn had
pegs stuck in these holes to form a hay catch. This kept the hay o the ground so it
wouldn’t be trampled and spoiled. The barn now serves as storage space at the Fox re
PLATE 9 Foxfire’s mule barn
On some farms in Rabun County, there were less commonly found buildings. These
were a symbol of the ingenuity and practicality of these people. They made do with
what they had, but if they had to develop new or di erent ways or structures that would
help them tend the farm, they’d do it.
Hog scalders were a rarity on Appalachian farms, unless the farm was big. They
were usually made of rock, and in the center, a big pot held the water in which a hog’s
hair was singed off. A fire was built underneath the pot to heat the water.
The hog scalder at the Fox re Center in Mountain City is a traditional design using
an iron pot set in cemented rocks. This particular hog scalder would have been
extravagant for the 1800s. A typical Appalachian family would not have been able to
a ord such a hog scalder unless they had a large farm, because the iron for such a large
pot and the rock work would have been very expensive.
PLATE 10 The hog scalder at the Foxfire Center
The hog was rarely put in the pot itself but was laid close to it and the water dipped
out of the pot and poured onto the hog. The hot water loosens the hair follicles so they
can be easily removed. The hog scalding pot could also be used for washing clothes,
making lye soap, rendering lard, and making cracklin’s, or it could cook large amounts
of soup. In the more southern regions of Georgia, a scalding pot might also be used for
sorghum syrup production.
Other families used a more conventional way of cleaning the meat, as J. C.
Stubble eld described. “We usually had a sled that we would drag the hog out on, and
pour the boiling water on the hog and clean it off.”
PLATE 11 A closer view of the hog scalder
J. C. Stubble eld told us about a building he has on his farm called a cornhouse. “We
built it to put soybeans in it because we used to grow soybeans to feed the milk cows in
the wintertime. When we quit having milk cows, we used it to put corn in because we
used to grow a lot of corn here. It’s about fourteen or sixteen by twenty [feet]. We had it
for a house for three months. We carried water to the old place way o over the hill,
and it didn’t have no kitchen or dining room. They built a small place just for the
kitchen and dining room. Bernice, my daddy and mother lived in it for three months
before they moved down here. It’s [made of] logs. The rafters on it is poles about three
to four inches [around]. Now, you know they use two-by-fours or two-by-sixes for
rafters, and [the cornhouse has] poles. That’s the little old building they lived in, and we
moved down here and put soybeans inside of it. I took it apart and had to put it back
together when I moved down here. [Bernice] was the only [child] then [in] 1912.”
PLATE 12 The cornhouse at J. C. Stubblefield’s homeplace
Another rarity on an Appalachian farm was the sorghum mill or furnace. In order to
get sorghum, one had to grow sugarcane. Many people in the mountains didn’t grow it,
but there were some that did. The structure was made of stone and cement with some
type of metal as the frame. It sits beneath the ground, and the dirt is used as the oor of
Former student Preston McCracken said, “In Foxfire 3 [pages 424—36], we published
an article about making sorghum molasses. Shortly after the book came out, one of our
readers contacted us saying that she was interested in making some sorghum herself, but
she needed the dimensions so that she could build the furnace.
“Therefore, Margie Bennett, John Bowen, and I went up to Sylva, North Carolina, to
Mrs. Varn Brooks’s and Mrs. Myrtle McMahan’s to get the requested measurements and
take a series of photographs. At that time, the furnace was still covered over because the
sorghum would not be cooked for another month or two, but the pictures will give you
an idea of how the furnace looks when in use.”
PLATE 13 The furnace is a simple stone and cement structure with pieces of angle iron used as a supporting frame
Jim Turpin reminisced, “Daddy always greased [the boiler pan] with burnt motor oil
to keep it from rusting before he put it away each year. [The next fall,] it would take
about two days to get it cleaned up before they could make the syrup. [To clean the
pan,] they’d have to ll it full of water and take ve or six boxes of soda and pour in it.
Then they’d take the steel wool [and scrub it] ’til that boiler was perfectly shiny.
PLATE 14 Diagram of front view of the furnace
PLATE 15 Diagram of side view of the furnace